I was four years old when I first discovered my ability to forget. My parents had divorced the previous year and in my father’s absence, I chose to forget his voice (I had not known then that I could forget faces just as easily as well). So, with the forgetting of his personal sounds, I came to forget his favorite words and his conversational gestures as well. I had forgotten so many of his characteristics that the day I returned from school to hear his voice echoing through our home for the first time in months, I assumed it was a stranger.
Years later, I made a best friend and we spent every second together. She was just the perfect mix of soft and witty, something that I so admired. I know we spent many days together yet all I can remember now is us crouching together in a tiny room underneath her stairs. It was easy to miss had you not known to look for it but in my mind now, our entire friendship existed inside the walls of that tiny room. She moved away and the only way I knew how to deal with the loss was simply to forget. What we did, where we ate, who we invited along are now all merely sediments in the very depths of my ocean mind.
Several years after our last meeting underneath the stairs, I met someone else who would turn my life upside down. He was dangerous – charming yet strong enough to keep a hold on me. He was the ultimate contradiction. There, then gone. Kind, then cold. Always loving, then leaving – something I could never understand. I was now old enough to realize that someday soon I would force myself to forget him too. I struggled with this thought and bent myself backwards trying to record every detail of him, the world that he had created, and the person I became just to desperately exist inside of that world. I created some of the most beautiful collection of works in that time, in an emotional realm that I have never been able to re-enter again. Our tumultuous encounters culminated one afternoon when I gave in entirely and begged for him to come over to explain to me the reason for his recent absence. I was addicted, wanting more of the only thing that has ever brought me beyond my own atmosphere. He arrived with a matter-of-fact demeanor, as I was forced to endure one hundred and one words of unsympathetic rejection. After this encounter, I bolted inside of my house and would not come out of my room for several days. I spent that time actively forgetting it all, and not taking a single second to remember any of the good. Six years later, I have now forgotten nearly every aspect of that relationship.
The problem with actively forgetting is that you can never forget what caused you to initiate the forgetting. I could not forget that my parents divorced, or that my best friend moved away, or that I hit rock bottom during a conversation with the first guy I had ever known to love. In some ways, I think this is a blessing – it is my mind leaving me a small sentiment to hang on to in case I ever want to be led back to that point in time again.
There are also things that I have chosen to forget, only to yearn desperately for it back days, or months, or even years later. I have forgotten my favorite teenage songs, because when I entered college I thought that they were lame. I’ve forgotten my grandpa’s face – needing photographs to constantly remind me — because I couldn’t fathom the notion of never seeing it in real life again after he passed away. I’ve forgotten numerous dates, flings, relationships, after they had ceased to exist because I deemed them pointless and a waste of my memory.
So I am now 24 years old and am learning that the gift of forgetting upon command also comes with a caveat. But I suppose, a rewarding life is the constant balancing of actively remembering and actively forgetting. My tendencies are just skewed more one way than the other.